Science to Support an Assessment of Future Climate Impacts on Wildlife in Wyoming

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In response to the potential impacts of climate and land use change to the Nation’s ecosystems, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched a series of Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs) in 2010. The REAs are focused on improving our understanding of the current state of ecosystems and how conditions may be impacted by changes in climate, land use, and other stressors. Researchers with the...

In response to the potential impacts of climate and land use change to the Nation’s ecosystems, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) launched a series of Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs) in 2010. The REAs are focused on improving our understanding of the current state of ecosystems and how conditions may be impacted by changes in climate, land use, and other stressors.

 

Researchers with the North Central CSC and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provided climate science support to the Wyoming Basin REA. The Wyoming Basin REA is a landscape-scale ecological assessment of over 33 million acres in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. This region has some of the highest quality wildlife habitat in the Intermountain West, and supports some of the largest U.S. populations of game species, including pronghorn, mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. The primary goal of the assessment was to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities of the region’s ecosystems and wildlife to change, to support management decision-making.

 

The climate analysis found that by 2030, temperatures in the region may rise by 2.5° Fahrenheit, and there will be more extreme hot days and fewer extreme cold days. It’s also expected that the snow accumulation season will start later in the fall, and that changing precipitation patterns will result in wetter winters and drier summers.

 

The results of this assessment can be used to identify priority areas for conservation or restoration of native plant and animal communities in the region, as well as to support broader landscape-scale decision-making related to all resources and public land uses.